Matt and Joanne’s Page

April 22, 2008

Castle Valley + Fisher Towers

Filed under: Climbing, Roadtrip — Matt Stamplis @ 3:07 pm

So after cragging for a couple of weeks it’s time to climb some bigger rocks! The first stop on our mini-tour of the desert is Castle Valley. Home to Castleton Tower, one of the coolest looking + most famous sandstone towers in the desert.

Castleton Tower is pretty hard to miss!

One pretty unique feature to the sandstone found here is this mineral glaze that coats the surface of many of the faces and the cracks. It can be a bit of a mixed blessing – it sometimes provides great features for hand/footholds but more often it makes the insides of cracks slippery, like a slimy limestone. The slippery nature of this stuff makes jams less secure and cam placements much less trustworthy.

The first route we climbed in Castle Valley? Why, one of the 50 classics, the famous Kor-Ingalls route on Castleton. Here’s Joanne working her way into the crux 3rd pitch. It’s old-school 5.9 (wide!) + protected by rusty old bolts. What a joy!

Joanne getting ready to head to the summit of Castleton Tower. One last easy pitch to the top.

Enjoying ourselves on the summit of Castleton, with the Rectory and the Priest in the background. We ended up climbing this tower twice, once via the Kor-Ingalls Route and then again by the North Chimney. The North Chimney had a very fun 1st pitch but the rest of the route had lots of “death blocks” on it so I can’t say I’d recommend it as highly as the guidebook did.

The other tower we climbed while we were here was the Priest. It’s the tower furthest to the left in the above picture. If you look closely you can see someone standing on top of the tower to it’s right (one of The Nuns, I think)

The route we climbed on The Priest was called The Honeymoon Chimney (5.9 A0). Here’s Matt showing how much fun the Honeymoon is – the 1st pitch climbs 100+ feet – squeezing the ENTIRE way. We thought the 5.9 crux of Kor-Ingalls route on Castleton was strenuous – this thing was much harder. Plus it was kind of scary with some 30-40 foot runouts – next time I’m bringing Big Bros!

The Priest has a reputation for some of the wildest climbing in Castle Valley – here’s pitch 3 – you chimney between the two faces until your legs can’t take it anymore. It was soooo windy when we were climbing that it was impossible to even try to free the bolt ladder on this pitch (5.11) – we were just trying not to get blown off the wall! The scariest thing we saw: the wind was blowing so hard that the bus-sized pillar on the right side in the picture above was actually moving back and forth. Whoah!

The first pitch squeeze was so brutal to Matt this is what his rope looked like when he finished that pitch: he had worn right through the sheath on the rope!

Having had our fill of fun in Castle Valley, today we took a quick detour over to the Fisher Towers. This place has a reputation for scary rock so we weren’t going to push our luck TOO much. So we climbed one of the easier routes here – Ancient Art (5.10-ish). The route climbs in 4-5 pitches to the crazy looking summit on the left in the above picture.

Joanne looking for a way to surmount the Diving Board, one of the final obstacles to the summit. With 300 feet air on either side of you, this is intimidating. Matt was able to jump up on top of it but Joanne’s short little legs made this a little harder!

Joanne finds a sneaky way around this: by crawling on hands and knees under it!

How this thing is still standing, we don’t know! Matt stood up just long enough to take this picture then quickly got off of it! This route ended up being our favorite in the Moab area – we were expecting bad rock – instead we found pretty good protection the whole way with fun climbing and a crazy finish. What more could you want?

Route Info + Beta!

Climbing Quality: This place is a bit overrated – The towers are sweet but the rock is so-so and for the relatively few number of routes it’s way too crowded. When we finished Castleton tower, there were 2 teams of 3 and a team of 5(!) on the Kor-Ingalls route and a line for the North Chimney. At least the climbers here are lazy – every morning we were hiking before anyone else was even awake.

Camping: It’s a parking lot. Bring bags for human waste. No water. Some more secluded spots can be found off the nearby dirt roads.

Rest Day Activities: Twiddle your thumbs? Read a book? A week here might start to wear you down. You probably WON’T want to hike on your rest day!



  1. that’s some insane climbing there! quite an adventure too, and soooooooo much better than desk bound in a lab…

    Comment by lil — April 26, 2008 @ 4:24 am

  2. Heehehehe…we do believe anything is better than desk bound to anywhere 🙂

    Comment by joannestamplis — May 9, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  3. Wow. Thanks for putting up all these amazing photos. I’ve been looking through all of them, noting the places I’d really like to climb someday. I like how you often outline the type of pro needed for a particular climb, as I do not own half a dozen blue c4’s. Peace and kangaroo grease!

    Comment by zack — June 27, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

    • Glad you enjoyed the pictures! If you ever go to Indian Creek and need a half dozen or more of one size, the good news is there’s usually people around that are happy to let you borrow gear, if you ask nicely 🙂

      Comment by Matt Stamplis — June 27, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  4. Just happened on here by coinsidence and realize this is pretty old, but this looks amazing. I’m not really a climber, but did some basic outdoor climbing many years ago and loved it… I never got very excited with the indoor training, but scaling a wall of rock in nature is one of the best feelings ever. This just reminded me of that, and inspired me to start thinking of taking it up again 🙂

    Comment by Anders EidstuenAnders — February 19, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

    • Thank you for your comment Anders. It has been a long time since we were in Utah. We are still actively climbing though. There is no such thing as too old to do anything. It’s a matter of whether you are willing to allocate time to do it or not. I hope you get a chance to go outdoor and climb a little.

      Comment by joannestamplis — February 21, 2012 @ 6:01 am

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